Entrepreneurship Opportunities at the corporate levels of UTC [Insert Otis Elevator joke here]

Working at UTC, my first reaction when pondering the opportunities for both corporate entrepreneurship and intrepreneurship is laughter near hysteria (some say I may be too jaded for my age). When more thought is given to the options though I believe the answer would be twofold – one must consider the lower level employees opportunities and that of upper management. For the lower level employees their opportunities (although slim) come in the form of being placed on internal teams (such as ACE teams, Code of Conduct, etc.) that would allow them more visibility and more power to institute change. Upper management on the other hand have more hold on the business. Because UTC is so large, and every division therein, most decisions are made by people I’ve never even laid eyes on. Those persons are able to move on opportunities such as mergers and reorganizations that are the output of such acquisitions. For the purpose of this blog post I will focus more on the lower levels of employment, the level of my people.

Corporations face multiple challenges when encouraging entrepreneurship from within, the two that I believe apply to UTC the most are the Emphasis on Organization Harmony (If it ain’t broke don’t fix it) and Linear Stage Gates and Cumbersome Decision Making which are defined in Bhaskar Chakrovorti’s article “A Note on Corporate Entrepreneurship: Challenge or Opportunity?” Essentially, I believe that Hamilton Sundstrand in particular within the UTC family makes product change ventures only when merging with other companies – no innovation or change is purely internal. The entrepreneurship comes mostly from outside ventures – UTC will acquire a new company and merge it an existing division which will change the business model and the product that the company sells. Hamilton merged with Sundstrand, we use to make just propellors and now we make multiple systems for the aerospace industry.

I have no recollection of any outside entrepreneurial ideas coming into any UTC division (with my vast 2 years of knowledge to pull from). I think because the aerospace industry is a niche market and not sold to the masses there is less opportunity for entering entrepreneurship. Some ways I believe these challenges could be overcome were to have more skip level meetings. Currently the head of engineering holds skip level meetings where people from various levels of the company are invited to discuss hot topics of the company. These meetings are held rarely and cancelled more times than not. I think that there should be a consistent skip level with not only the head of engineering but a rotation of the VPs. It would also be nice if lower level employees could request which VP they would like to be at their skip level, just in case they had a company idea that they wanted to pitch. I think if lower level employees had greater but still limited access to the decision makers of the company then some of the issues associated with stage gates and design making.

Another option to attempt to improve the ability of corporations to encourage intrepreneurship is to commit to decisions. Hamilton Sundstrand has a legacy of making demands and decisions that affect its employees at all levels, and then after 6 months to a year the demand dies out and any change that was made reverts back to how it use to be. Upper management stops caring and does not check up on progress, or if they do, a crisis breaks out and lower levels scramble to come up with evidence that people are still working hard to change. Due to the inconsistancy of the decisions there is an overwhelming attitude in the lower levels that they will not change what they’re doing because it will be a waste of their time.When management allows their resistance, intrepreneurial ideas don’t go very far. Therefore, management must put more emphasis on any change they want to instate and have milestone check ups to ensure change occurs.

There are various issues related to corporate entrepreneurship that affect different organizations and industries differently due to the nature and size of the business. Companies must understand their weaknesses related to the encouragement of intrepreneurship and ability of their employees to bring innovation and new business ideas to light internally. There are solutions to each issue, they just may need some new ideas to improve their metrics 😉


2 Responses to “Entrepreneurship Opportunities at the corporate levels of UTC [Insert Otis Elevator joke here]”
  1. McMackin says:

    Post Script –
    When reviewing the opportunities external entrepreneurs would have at a company the size of UTC I became hesitant to say that it was difficult and rare because I realized that my group’s business plan relies on our ability to bring our external idea to a large company like Hefty and Solo. This left me wondering, ‘why would external entrepreneurship work for Hefty/Solo and not UTC?’ Not that external ideas can’t come to UTC but I believe it would be easier with Solo/Hefty because they sell dozens of different products to the public. There are an infinite amount of possibilities for the design of a cup and what it can be used for, and the world is your oyster when it comes to customers. You can only use Air Management Systems for airplanes and there are only a few options you can offer your airplane manufacturing customer to increase the value proposition.

  2. I will be interested to see how the Hamilton and Goodrich acquisition folds out in terms of the concepts mentioned in the corporate entrepreneurship article… for some reason, I have a funny feeling that Hamilton isn’t going to let Goodrich operate as they did before the acquisition, and will force them to conform to the Hamilton way. It will be an interesting ride!

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